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22 Irresistible Alachua County, FL Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) to Grow for Butterflies and One You Don’t

Table of Contents for Alachua County, Florida Milkweeds

Turn your Alachua County butterfly garden into a buffet for butterflies by getting rid of the chemicals and planting a nectar rich haven. A good plant to start with are milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), which do double duty as a host for the monarch, queen, and soldier butterflies in Florida and are a nectar source many other insects. These plants provide the caterpillars cardenolides, which make the adults taste bad to predators. Dive into the article to find out about the plant hardiness zones in Alachua County, and the planting requirements needed for milkweeds in the county.

Location of Alachua County, Florida

Alachua county in red on a Florida state map.
State of Florida with Alachua County in Red — David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Alachua County, FL is located in northern Florida in the middle of the Peninsula. Gainesville is the major city in the county.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Alachua County, Florida

2023 USDA plant hardiness zone map for the state of Florida.
2023 Florida USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map — USDA Public Domain

Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida are located in plant hardiness zone 9a. Generally when selecting plants you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as +200F to be sure they will survive.

Butterflies in Alachua County, Florida that are Hosted by Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)

Male Monarch Butterfly (Danaus gillipus) on plant.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Green Flower — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Butterfly on Twig.
Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus) — Korall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Soldier butterfly on a twig.
Soldier Butterfly (Danaus eresimus) — Korall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Soldier Butterfly (Danaus eresimus)

List of Native or Nearly Native Alachua County, Florida Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)

1. Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), a Milkweed for Sandy Soils

This milkweed can transform your yard into a butterfly haven. A blunt-leaved milkweed, it is adapted to minimize water loss from sand reflection. This milkweed hosts the monarch butterfly and packs a punch in attracting other butterflies. Your patch of paradise can be turned into a meadow of flitting insects enjoying the delights of your planted buffet.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and requires full sun to part-shade and moist to dry sandy soils. Seeds of clasping milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Plant of clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) with pink flowers in a wooded area.
Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Pinkish flowers of clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) in a field, a Raleigh milkweed.
Flowers of Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) — cassi saari, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Reddish-pink flowers of clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) in a field.
Flowers of Clasping Milkweed — “Asclepias amplexicaulis – Clasping Milkweed” by FritzFlohrReynolds is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

2. Carolina Milkweed (Asclepias cinerea), a Milkweed for Sandy Soils

Carolina Milkweed (Ascelpias cinerea): Carolina milkweed is native to northern Florida and the panhandle and in Alachua County (Kartesz 2015). In the wild, Carolina milkweed grows in savannas, meadows, grasslands, pine barrens, and sandy ridges. Growing from 1 to 2.5 feet tall, this milkweed has white (Woodson 1954) to ashy-gray (Weakley 2022) flowers that bloom from May to August.

Carolina milkweed is a gray ghost in the sandhill kingdom of Florida. This milkweed is well-adapted to sandy soil and the ample sun by having thin leaves and a thin stem. Monarchs, other butterflies, and insects finding their way onto the sandhills and your garden will relish this plant.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 8-10 and requires full sun to part-shade and sandy soils. Because of its short stature, this plant would do well as a container plant if you do not have space for a garden. Just be sure to include sand in the soil mixture.

Purplish flowers of carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea).
Flowers of Carolina Milkweed (Asclepias cinerea) Walter observed in United States of America by Amber M. King (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Leaves and stem of carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea).
Plant of Carolina Milkweed (Asclepias cinerea) Walter observed in United States of America by Scott Allen Davis (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Whitish flowers of Carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea).
Pinkish Flowers of Carolina Milkweed (Asclepias cinerea) Walter observed in United States of America by Scott Allen Davis (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

3. Large-flower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens), a Milkweed for Moist Soil

Large-flower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens): Large-flower milkweed is native in scattered locations throughout Florida including Alachua County (Kartesz 2015). In the wild, large-flower milkweed grows in pine barrens, flatwoods, bogs, marshes, and swamp margins. Growing from 0.5 to 3 feet tall, this milkweed has white to greenish-white (Woodson 1954) mixing with purple (Weakley 2022) flowers that bloom from June to August. The flowers of this milkweed are very fragrant (Woodson 1954).

If you have a wetland and need a milkweed to provide for butterflies, this one is for you. It can handle the sun, while providing a nectar buffet to all comers, insect and bird. Transform your wet ground into a butterfly buffet and nectar source that will make other wetlands envious.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 8-11 and requires full sun and moist soils. Because of its short stature, this plant would do well as a container plant if you do not have space for a garden. Just be sure that the soil remains moist.

Plant of large-flower milkweed (Asclepias connivens) in an open area.
Plant of Large-flower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens) Baldwin ex Elliott observed in United States of America by Matt Berger (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Yellowish-green flowers of large-flower milkweed (Asclepias connivens).
Flowers of Large-flower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens) Baldwin ex Elliott observed in United States of America by Matt Berger (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Leaves of large-flower milkweed (Asclepias connivens).
Leaves of Large-flower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens) Baldwin ex Elliott observed in United States of America by Matt Berger (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

4. Curtiss’ Milkweed (Asclepias curtissii), a Milkweed for Well-Drained Soil

Curtiss’ Milkweed (Ascelpias curtissii): Curtiss’ milkweed is native and endemic to the state of Florida (Kartesz 2015). While not native to Alachua County, it is native just to the south and can exist in the plant hardiness zone. In the wild, curtiss’ milkweed grows in former wetlands, dry sandy scrub, pinelands (Woodson 1954), and places of disturbance. Growing from 2 to 4 feet tall, it has flowers that are pale gree, pink (Weakley 2022), greenish-white to white and bloom from April to August.

If you are looking for a medium sized milkweed to accent your garden, this milkweed may be for you. The green and white flower clusters provide textural appeal in gardens that have well-drained soil. Combined with milkweeds that are taller or shorter, it can make an excellent adddition to your garden.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 8-10 and requires full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil.

Yellowish flowers of curtis's milkweed (Asclepias curtissii).
Curtiss’ Milkweed (Asclepias curtissii) A.Gray observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Green and white flowers of curtis's milkweed (Asclepias curtissii).
Flowers of Curtiss’ Milkweed (Asclepias curtissii) — Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth!, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Queen butterfly on curtis's milkweed (Asclepias curtissii).
Curtiss’ Milkweed (Asclepias curtissii) with Queen Butterfly — Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth!, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), a Milkweed for Shade and Moist Soils

Poke Milkweed (Ascelpias exaltata): Poke milkweed is not native to Florida, but is present in northern Georgia (Kartesz 2015). In the wild, poke milkweed grows in moist woods, roadsides, and the edges of woods. Growing from 2 to 6 feet tall it is one of the taller milkweeds in Tennessee and has flowers that are white to green with accents of rose, purple, or blue. Blooming occurs from May to August.

Host the monarch butterfly and beckon other butterflies with this gentle giant of a milkweed that has fragrant lavender-tinged blooms and loves shade. Towering over other plants and joining other tall plants such as joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium spp.) and ironweed (Vernonia spp.), you can turn your shade garden into a nectar powerhouse.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and requires part-shade to full shade and moist soil. For shade gardens, this is a choice milkweed and is the reason this species is included in this list. However, make sure that this plant is well-shaded since it is adapted for cooler climates and may not make it in Alachua County. Seeds of poke milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Greenish-white flowers of poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) in a wooded area.
Flowers of Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) — Dendroica cerulea, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of poke milkweed with white flowers in a wooded habitat.
Poke Milkweed in a Wooded Area — “Asclepias exaltata” by kevinliam is marked with CC0 1.0.
White flowers of poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) in a wooded area.
Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) — homeredwardprice, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi), a Milkweed for Sandy Soils

Florida Milkweed (Ascelpias feayi): Florida milkweed is native and endemic to peninsular Florida (Kartesz 2015) and is native to counties adjacent to Alachua County. In the wild, Florida milkweed grows in sandy places such as sandhills, railroads (Woodson 1954), and pine flatwoods. Growing up to 2 feet tall, it is a short milkweed, and has flowers that are white and have hints of purple. Blooming occurs from April to July.

Though a small milkweed, this species creates a spectacle of star-like flowers in the summer. This plant can be a great addition to a layered garden and provide for monarchs and other insects alike. Be sure to plant it in well-drained sandy soil or in a pot with the same.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 9-10 and requires full sun in well-drained sandy soil.

White flowers of Florida milkweed (Asclepias feayi).
Flowers of Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi) — jimduggan24, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
White flowers of Florida milkweed (Asclepias feayi) in an open area.
Flowers of Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi) — Asclepias feayi Chapm. ex A.Gray observed in United States of America by Claire Herzog (licensed under CC BY 4.0).
Plant of Florida milkweed (Asclepias feayi) with a white flower.
Plant of Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi) — Asclepias feayi Chapm. ex A.Gray observed in United States of America by Claire Herzog (licensed under CC BY 4.0).

7. Sandhill Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata), a Milkweed for Sandy Soil

Sandhill Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata): Sandhill milkweed is native to the panhandle and peninsular Florida except for southern Florida (Kartesz 2015) and is native in Alachua County. In the wild, sandhill milkweed grows, as the name suggests, on sandhills, but it is also found in dry oak woods, pine barrens, and roadsides. Growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, the flowers are white, pink, or purple and bloom from April to July.

Sandhill milkweed is distinguished by grayish-green leaves with pink veins, giving a different color to your garden. While providing color this plant is a nursery for caterpillars of the monarch and queen butterflies. This plant does not need much attention once established.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 8-9 and requires full sun and mesic to dry sandy soil. In a garden, it can handle some shade. Because of its small stature this milkweed may be suitable for planting in a pot and keeping on a patio. Since this species is at the upper limit of its plant hardiness zone, it may start to experience some heat stress with climate warming in the future. Seeds of sandhill milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Plant of sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) in a field.
Flowers of Sandhill Milkweed — (Asclepias humistrata) Walter observed in United States of America by nat_t (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Plant of sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) in a sandy area.
Plant of Sandhill Milkweed — “Asclepias humistrata Walter” by Mark T. Strong and Carol L. Kelloff is marked with CC0 1.0.
Close-up of pinkish flowers of sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata).
Flowers of Sandhill Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) — ggallice, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

This milkweed prefers wet soils, but it is not just for mud. In your garden this thin-stalked plant with a rosy-blush can accent your nectar buffet and provide sustenance for monarch butterflies in most soil conditions. This plant makes a nice contrast and splash of color when planted with yellow and white flowered plants.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, swamp milkweed is overall hardy in zones 4-9. However, in the horticultural trade you will likely get subsp. incarnata, which is hardy in zones 3-9. Either of the subspecies, even though one is native to the county, may have heat stress in the future because of climate warming. This milkweed requires full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Seeds of swamp milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Pink flowers of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) from Pennsylvania.
Flowers of Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) — Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) 'Ice Ballet' cultivar.
‘Ice Ballet’ cultivar of Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) — Photo by and (c)2009 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons
Follicles (fruits) of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in a garden.
Follicles — “Swamp milkweed, rose milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, new England native garden” by sapienssolutions is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

9. Few-flower Milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

This orange flowered milkweed can produce a pollinator symphony in your Alachua County wet spot. The fluttering of orange and black butterflies can provide a vibrant contrast to the flowers this plant.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, few-flower milkweed is hardy in zones 5-11 and requires full sun to part-shade with soil that is loamy and moist to wet. This is likely one of the most heat resilient milkweeds you can plant in Alachua County.

Orangish flowers of few-flower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata).
Flowers of Few-flower Milkweed — Asclepias lanceolata Walter observed in United States of America by Robert Webster (licensed under CC BY SA 4.0)
Plant of few-flower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) in an open area.
Plant of Few-Flower Milkweed — Asclepias lanceolata Walter observed in United States of America by Jana Miller (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Plant of few-flower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) with orange flowers.
Flowers of Few-flower Milkweed — Asclepias lanceolata Walter observed in United States of America by John Kees (licensed under CC0 1.0)

10. Long-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias longifolia), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

When planted with the few-flower milkweed above in a wetland this species can provide a color contrast to your garden. A diversity of milkweeds can give your monarchs variety and attract a number of different pollinators.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, long-leaf milkweed is hardy in zones 4-9 and requires full sun with moist to wet soils. Since this milkweed is at the upper limit of its hardiness zone, it may experience some heat stress due to climate warming. Because of its small stature it might be a good candidate for a container plant.

Purplish flowers of long-leaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia).
Long-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias longifolia) Michx. observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Yellowish-pink flowers of long-leaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia).
Flowers of Long-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias longifolia) — Public Domain Image
Pink flower cluster of long-leaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia) in an open area.
Plant of Long-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias longifolia) Michx. observed in United States of America by cnagele (licensed under CC0 1.0)

11. Michaux’s Milkweed (Asclepias michauxii), a Milkweed for Well-drained Soils

A plant for sunny wetlands, this milkweed is one of the smallest that you can plant in Alachua County. This species is the perfect choice for any bare spot or as a container plant on your patio. If grown in a container be sure to keep the soil wet.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, Michaux’s milkweed is hardy in zones 7-11 and requires full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Its plant hardiness, make it a good long-term candidate to resilency in light of climate change warming.

Plant of Michaux's milkweed (Asclepias michauxii) with white flowers.
Michaux’s Milkweed — “Asclepias michauxii” by mcferny is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
White flowers of Michaux's milkweed (Asclepias michauxii).
Flowers of Michaux’s Milkweed — Asclepias michauxii Decne. observed in United States of America by John Kees (licensed under CC0 1.0)
White flowers of Michaux's milkweed (Asclepias michauxii).
Flowers of Michaux’s Milkweed — (Asclepias michauxii) by misspt is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

12. Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias obovata), a Milkweed for Well-drained Soils

The flowers of this milkweed are unassuming and blend in with the greens and yellows around it. However, while sustaining monarch caterpillars, the flowers give a lot of nectar to insects who find them.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, pineland milkweed is hardy in zones 7-10 and requires full sun with well-drained soils. The short-stature of this plant would make it suitable for planting in pots if you have a small space or no room for a garden. This plant may be climate resilent for awhile since it can exist at a higher plant hardiness zone than that in Alachua County.

Plant of pineland milkweed (Asclepias obovata) with greenish-yellow flowers.
Plant of Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias obovata) Elliott observed in United States of America by kcthetc1 (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Greenish-yellow flowers of pineland milkweed (Asclepias obovata).
Flowers of Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias obovata) Elliott observed in United States of America by kcthetc1 (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Greenish-yellow flower buds of pineland milkweed (Asclepias obovata).
Budding Flowers of Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias obovata) Elliott observed in United States of America by kcthetc1 (licensed under CC0 1.0)

13. Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata), a Milkweed for Sandy Soil

Savannah milkweed appears like a grass with yellowish flowers and blends in with it surroundings. It is a delicate plant but stands strong against competition and the face of fire.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, savannah milkweed is hardy in zones 7-10 and requires full sun and mesic to moist sandy soil. Similar to some of the other smaller milkweeds, the short-stature makes this a plant a candidate for container gardens. It is also a good choice for climate resiliency since it can grow a zone higher in plant hardiness.

Greenish-yellow flowers of savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata).
Flowers of Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) Walter observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Close-up of greenish-yellow flowers of savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicillata).
Flowers of Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) Walter observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Plant of savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) with yellow flowers.
Plant of Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) Walter observed in United States of America by Valerie Anderson (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

14. Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

If you have a wetland or a garden with moist soil in Alachua County, this is a plant to consider to provide for monarchs and other insects. Its small size makes it a candidate for a container plant.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, aquatic milkweed is hardy in zones 6-10 and requires full sun to partial shade with moist soils.

Aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) with white flowers in floodplain forest.
Flowers of Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) Walter observed in United States of America by Étienne Lacroix-Carignan (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Plant of aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) with white flowers in a wetland.
Plant of Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) Walter observed in United States of America by Jody Shugart (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) with white flowers in a wetland.
Top view of Flowers of Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) Walter observed in United States of America by Étienne Lacroix-Carignan (licensed under CC0 1.0)

15. Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra), a Milkweed for Moist to Wet Soils

Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra): Red milkweed is native the western panhandle of Florida (Kartesz 2015). While not native to Alachua County, it can handle the plant hardiness zone of the county. In the wild, red milkweed grows in wet open areas such as meadows, bogs, and pine barrens. Growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, the flowers range from pink, purple, red, to lavender in color and bloom from May to August.

Another wetland milkweed, this species is can grow in a variety of light situations and can be a focal point in your garden.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 6-9 and requires full sun or part-shade and wet organic soil.

Plant of red milkweed (Asclepias rubra) with red flowers.
Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra) — peganum from Henfield, England, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Close-up of pink flowers of red milkweed (Asclepias rubra).
Flowers of Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra) — peganum from Small Dole, England, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of red milkweed (Asclepias rubra) in an open area.
Asclepias rubra L. observed in United States of America by John Kees (licensed under CC0 1.0)

16. Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa), a Milkweed for Sandy Soils

Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa): Velvetleaf milkweed is native to scattered counties in the panhandle and peninsular Florida (Kartesz 2015). It is native in a county adjacent to Alachua County. In the wild, velvetleaf milkweed grows in sandy pine woodlands with long-leaf pine (Pinus palustris) and scrub-oak sandhills. Growing from 2 to 3 feet tall, it has flowers ranging from yellow-cream with pink to maroon tints that bloom from April to August.

If you want to add some texture to your garden and have dry sandy soils, this plant is for you. The names comes from the velvety leaves, which sustenance for monarch butterflies.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 7-10 and prefers places where it can enjoy full sun and mesic to dry sandy soils. This milkweed may be a good climate change choice given that it is not at the upper limit of the plant hardiness zone. Seeds of velvetleaf milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Plant of velvetleaf milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa) in a wooded area.
Plant of Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa) Elliott collected in United States of America (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Greenish-white flowers of velvetleaf milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa).
Flower cluster of Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa) Elliott collected in United States of America (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Greenish-white flowers of velvetleaf milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa).
Flowers of Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa) Elliott observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)

17. Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Soils

Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa): Showy milkweed is native to the western United States (Kartesz 2015), but is widely planted in butterfly gardens elsewhere. While not native to Florida or Alachua County it can handle the plant hardiness zone, at least currently. In the wild, showy milkweed grows in open areas with full sun such as roadsides, pastures, and fields. Growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, this plant has flowers that are purple, pink to white and bloom from May to June.

Imagine the soft brushstrokes of of pink and purple having star-shaped blooms acting as a beacon for weary monarchs and playground for bees. Transform your sunny location into a scent filled extravagnaza and while watching your guests delight in the sun kissed nectar.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, showy milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and requires full sun with medium to dry well-drained soil. Since this species is at the upper limit of its hardiness zone, it may experience heat stress in the future. Seeds of showy milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Pinkish-white flowers of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Asclepias speciosa Torr. observed in Canada by markeambard (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Pinkish flowers of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Flowers of Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) — Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Follicle of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) Follicle — John Rusk from Berkeley, CA, United States of America, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

18. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a Milkweed for all Soils

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): Butterfly weed is one of the most common for butterfly gardeners on the east coast of the United States. In Tennessee, subspecies interior and tuberosa are both native and both have a scattered distribution. In Alachua County, subsp. rolfsii is native, while subsp. interior is native and rare to the northeast and subsp. tuberosa is also located to the northeast. In the wild, butterfly weed grows in open areas with full sun such as fields, roadsides, and open woods. Growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, it has characteristically orange flowers that bloom throughout the summer and sometimes into the autumn.

If you need a hint of orange in a sea of white and pink milkweeds, this plant is for you. This orange milkweed is one of the few of this color and sustains the monarch butterfly is a valuable nectar for other insects. Imagine a fluttering calcophony of yellow, black, and orange on orange flowers. If you have a sunny garden or want to grow a milkweed in a container this plant is for you.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy from zones 3-9 and requires full sun in any type of soil condition. This is one of two milkweeds in North America that does not have milky sap. In the future this species may experience heat stress, since it is at the limit of its hardiness range. Seeds of butterfly weed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Orange flowers of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Butterfly Weed with Orange Flowers — Robert Coxe, Image
Monarch butterfly on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Butterfly Weed with Monarch Butterfly — U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Follicles of butterfly weed showing seeds.
Butterfly Weed Follicles — User:SB_Johnny, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

19. Red-ring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata), a Milkweed for Dry Sandy Soils

Red-Ring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata): Red-ring milkweed is native in the panhandle and northern Florida (Kartesz 2015). While not native in Alachua County it is native nearby. In the wild, red-ring milkweed grows in open disturbed areas such as thickets and roadsides. Growing from 1 to 4 feet tall, it has white colored flowers with a ring of purple to red at the base. The flowers bloom from May to July.

This milkweed lives in places where there is filtered light. The small balls of white can provide a textural contrast to the pinks of other milkweeds in your garden. In addition, like the butterfly weed, this plant is small and can be grown in a container for those with small gardens or patios.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and prefers part-sun to light-shade and dry sandy or rocky soils. In the future it may experience heat stress, being at the upper limit of its hardiness zone. Seeds of red-ring milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Close-up of white flowers of red ring milkweed (Asclepias variegata).
Red-ring Milkweed with White Flowers — Masebrock, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of red ring milkweed (Asclepias variegata) in a wooded area.
Red-ring Milkweed in a Wooded Area — “Asclepias variegata” by coatlicue is marked with CC0 1.0.
White flower clusters of red ring milkweed (Asclepias variegata).
Close-up of White Flowers — “Asclepias variegata” by coatlicue is marked with CC0 1.0.

20. Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Soil

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata): Whorled milkweed is generally native throughout Florida (Kartesz 2015) and native to Alachua County. In the wild, whorled milkweed grows in open areas such as meadows and fields, where it can take advantage of full sun. Growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, it has green to white flowers that bloom from May to September.

Another species providing textural appeal is the whorled milkweed. Another small milkweed, it provides nourishment for monarch caterpillars and nectar for other butterflies and bees. The overall look of the plant blends in with the swaying grasses in your garden.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and requires full sun to part-shade with medium to dry soil. Seeds of whorled milkweed can be purchased at the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Close-up of white flowers of whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata).
Flowers of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) — Joshua Mayer (wackybadger), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaves of whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata).
Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) Leaves — Frank Mayfield (gmayfield10), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
White flowers of whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) in an open area.
Flowers of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

21. Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Sandy Soils

Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora): Green comet milkweed is native and rare in two counties of the Florida panhandle (Kartesz 2015). In the wild, green comet milkweed grows in open areas such as meadows and field where there is full sun. Growing up to 3 feet tall, the flowers, which bloom from June to August, begin as a green color but age to become yellow with a purple tinge.

This milkweed can add another color to your garden tapestry. The green flower color helps them to blend in with the leaves saving them from herbivores that would eat them. If you need a medium sized milkweed that can handle a variety of habitats, this milkweed is for you.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 3-9 and requires full sun to part-shade with medium to dry sandy soil. Seeds of green comet milkweed can be purchased at the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Green flower cluster of green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora).
Flowers of Green Comet Milkweed — Patrick Alexander from Las Cruces, NM, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Plant of green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora).
Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) — Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaves of green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora).
Leaves of Green Comet Milkweed — Patrick Alexander from Las Cruces, NM, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

22. Green Antelope-Horn Milkweed (Asclepias viridis), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry High pH Soils

Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis): Green milkweed is native in very scattered locations through Florida (Kartesz 2015) and is native just southwest of Alachua County. In the wild, green milkweed grows in open areas such as meadows and field where there is full sun. Growing up to 3 feet tall, the flowers, which bloom from June to August, begin as a green color but age to become yellow with a purple tinge.

If you need a plant that can nourish monarch butterflies, is a great nectar source and is green this may be the plant for you. Be sure you provide a high pH environment and have plenty of sun.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 5-9 and requires full sun with medium to dry soils having a high pH. Seeds of green milkweed can be purchased at the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Plant of green milkweed (Asclepias viridis).
Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) Walter observed in United States of America by Diana Foreman (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Green flower cluster of green milkweed (Asclepias viridis).
Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) Walter observed in United States of America by Alan Prather (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Plant of green milkweed (Asclepias viridis).
Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) Walter observed in United States of America by John Kees (licensed under CC0 1.0)

23. Southern Milkweed (Asclepias viridula), a Milkweed for Wet to Moist Soils

Southern Milkweed (Asclepias viridula): Southern milkweed is native and rare in the panhandle and northeastern Florida (Kartesz 2015). It is not native to Alachua County, but it can grow in the hardiness zone. In the wild, southern milkweed grows in wetlands such as flatwoods, seepages, prairies, and bogs. Growing up to 2 feet tall, the flowers, which are green to white with a maroon tint, and bloom from April to July.

In your Alachua County butterfly garden, this milkweed is hardy in zones 8-9 and requires full sun with moist soils. It is unknown if this species is in cultivation.

X. Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), a Milkweed you do not want to plant

Tropical milkweed is adventive to Alachua County in Florida (Kartesz 2015) and is a milkweed you do not want to plant. Even though this is a milkweed and is an attractive plant, it is actually harmful to monarch butterflies.

When selecting plants for your Alachua County butterfly garden, make sure they grow in your zone and habitat.

Books where you can find out more about Monarchs and Butterfly Gardening in Alachua County, FL

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References

  • Kartesz, J.T. The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. Taxonomic Data Center. Link to website. Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2015. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]
  • Urguhart, Frederick Albert, Norah Roden Urguhart, and Francis Munger. 1968. Population of Danaus plexippus in Southern California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 7(4): 169-181.
  • Weakley, A.S. and Southeastern Flora Team 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
  • Woodson, Robert E. 1954. The North American Species of Asclepias L. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 41: 1-211.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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